The new headquarters for the Ministry of National Assembly and Senate Relations and Inspection, which is to be built by an obscure company without offices on a site that is currently a public garden, is a million-dollar “gift” from Prime Minister Hun Sen, an official said Wednesday.
“I received [the new building] as a gift from Samdech Hun Sen because the current building is just a villa and too small,” Men Sam An, CPP minister of National Assembly and Senate Relations, said.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new ministry building, which will cost $1 million, is scheduled for Jan 19, she said.
In Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Bassac commune this week, workers were erecting a fence around the site—a garden and exercise field that abuts a large, decrepit and densely-populated housing complex.
Residents at the complex expressed dismay that their green space would be lost.
“I don’t know why they chose this place to build the ministry,” resident Sman Phally, 41, mused on Tuesday as he stood next to the broad triangle of patchy grass. “It is more fit to be a garden.”
At the Ministry of Economy and Finance, First Secretary of State Kong Vibol said Wednesday that his ministry had no funding for the new ministry project and referred further questions to Minister Men Sam An.
But while the minister knew the contract had been awarded to a construction company called New Hope, Men Sam An said she was unaware of how the company won the contract.
New Hope Co Ltd, about which little more than a name seems to be known, has been licensed and registered at the Ministry of Commerce since 2002 under the names Lay Bun Pa and Lay Bundy. However, the company’s office address registered in the ministry’s records does not exist.
A New Hope company letterhead, which was viewed at Tonle Bassac commune headquarters on Tuesday, gave a different office address in Daun Penh district and two contact numbers.
The second address led to a small villa with no postings and few signs of inhabitancy. Although a television was playing inside, no one came to the gate after repeated calls. Neighbors said Wednesday that the villa was owned by a man they knew only as Mr Pov and had been rented within the past month to several men who left early in the morning and came back after dark.
One of the mobile phone numbers on the letterhead was answered Tuesday by a man who said he was with New Hope but refused to give his name, address or any details on the ministry project aside from a rough timetable.
Another call to the same number on Wednesday was answered by a different man who said he was a bodyguard and that the phone belonged to Mr Pov, whose full name he did not know
The second number, a land line, was answered Tuesday by a woman who did not know the name of the company she worked for but confirmed that it was involved in construction. She was able to identify her superior only as Mr Pov.
Called again on Wednesday, the telephone number was answered by a different woman who said it was a wrong number before hanging up.